Stroganoff on the First Try!

I did it! I successfully made beef stroganoff and it was delicious (and not all that difficult). As it turns out, all you really need are a crock pot, some veggies, sour cream, a little dijon mustard and a chuck steak. The rest is probably already in your pantry. 

My Beef Stroganoff was plucked from the pages of this Cooking Light Slow Cooker recipe book and I will definitely be using it for more fabulous crock pot meals soon. After chopping all the ingredients, it was as easy as mixing them all in the pot and adjusting the dial to the appropriate setting. This recipe calls for 1 hour cooked on high heat and an additional 7 to 8 hours on low heat. However, I was on a bit of a deadline and ended up leaving it on high heat for a bit longer in order to cut down on the full cook time. It worked perfectly! 

It wasn’t quite like my mom’s tomato sauce based stroganoff but somehow it still reminded me of her cooking. Simply follow the recipe for a hot and easy meal that will put a smile on your face after a long work day. 

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Golden Book: Learn to Cook (Stir Fry)

It’s been a while since I posted about my favorite Little Golden Book but I recently had an exciting breakthrough in the kitchen and it seemed like a good time to revisit it. Learning to cook isn’t technically one of the golden book rules but it’s in keeping with the theme of trying new things. This week I attempted to make chicken and veggie stir fry and it turned out beautifully. Through a combination of this Broccoli and Chicken Stir-Fry recipe and a few helpful tips from my mom, this was a stunning success!

My last attempt at chicken stir fry was years ago during my days as a poor, starving college student. Having little cooking experience at that time, I dumped in way too much soy sauce to disastrous effect. The dish was so salty it was nearly inedible and I was never brave enough to give it another try. However, I’ve been craving the stuff ever since my mom made it during one of my Colorado visits and I was determined to get it right this time. Here are a few tips for avoiding my early mistakes and cooking up a delicious stir fry that’s bound to hit the spot.

  • Chop all your ingredients beforehand – Once your chicken is cooked, things will go very quickly. I used a bag of pre-chopped assorted vegetables which included broccoli, carrots and Snow Peas. To this I also added one small sweet onion, half of a red bell pepper for some color and sliced water chestnuts to give it some crunch (stir in the water chestnuts at the end). 
  • Use LITE SOY SAUCE!!! – Trust me on this. Also, never wing it with your soy sauce measurement. Do it right. In this case, ⅔ of a cup was perfect. 
  • Use fresh ginger – I grated a bit into my sauce mixture and also added some shredded ginger to my veggies as they cooked.
  • Use sesame oil – The recipe calls for vegetable oil but for the best flavor, I recommend cooking your chicken and veggies in sesame oil instead. 
  • Don’t forget your red pepper flakes – They add a nice spice. 
  • Steam your veggies – I cooked my chicken and veggies separately. I added a bit of water to my veggies on medium low heat for a few minutes to allow them to soften. I then added my cooked chicken back to the pot with my sauce mixture. 

Serve it up on a pretty plate and you’ll have yourself a gourmet looking feast for four (or dinner for one for the whole week). Enjoy!

Parmesan Spinach Gnocchi Success!

One of the things I will always love about Indiana is the ability to find authentic German spaetzle at any grocery store in town. Once while perusing the pasta aisle, I came across packaged gnocchi and I couldn’t resist adding it to my cart. Of course, the best things in life are usually made with love and from scratch but I’m pleased to report the Gnocchi was a wonderful success even though it was pre-packaged. 

This Parmesan Spinach Gnocchi was an incredibly quick and easy recipe, requiring only about 20 minutes of prep time and mostly consisting of ingredients that I typically keep in my pantry. I tend to operate under the mentality that you can never have too much garlic and ended up nearly doubling it for this recipe. This is the perfect meal for a busy evening and sure to leave you wanting more. 

Best Tomato Soup Ever!

To any aspiring cooks looking to impress company or just craving a hot home cooked meal but lacking experience, I recommend Good and Cheap: Eat well on $4/Day by Leanne Brown. This is my all time favorite cookbook! In addition to being chock-full of incredibly gourmet looking and sounding recipes that are so easy it feels like magic, this book also is loaded with helpful tips for grocery shopping on a budget and useful equipment to keep handy in your kitchen. 

One of my go-to recipes is the tomato soup (the secret ingredient is lemon zest. Who knew?!). Best tomato soup I’ve ever had but the real game changer is the grilled cheese.

Some ingredients you’re going to need (serves 5):

  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (I prefer mine finely chopped)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or 6, you can never have too much garlic)
  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) pureed tomatoes (I use canned crushed tomatoes)
  • 6 cups of vegetable broth (or a bouillon cube dissolved in water)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Softened butter, for the bread
  • 10 slices of bread
  • 2½ cups of grated cheese

Optional additions (You’re going to want these. Trust me!):

  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil (Again, you can never have too much. Dried basil works in a pinch)
  • Zest of 1 lemon (Gives that extra fresh taste)
  • Dijon mustard

Tools:

  • Large soup pot with lid
  • Chef’s knife
  • Butter knife
  • Medium sized pan
  • Spatula
  • Ladle 
  • Immersion blender (optional, for creamier texture)

Directions:

In your pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, stir them to coat, then place a lid on the pot and leave it for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and stir. Add the garlic and cover again until the onions are soft and just starting to brown, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and vegetable broth and stir. Make sure to scrape any sticky onions off the bottom to keep them from burning. Bring the soup to a boil, then turn it down to low to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Taste. Add salt and pepper as needed. Add the cream, herbs and lemon zest if using (it makes all the difference). At this point, you can use your immersion blender to puree the onion and tomato mixture but I enjoy the slight crunch of the finely chopped onions. 

Now for the finale; the grilled cheese! Spread the butter on one side of each slice of bread, all the way to the edges.

Flip over 5 slices of bread, buttered side down, and top each with mustard, if using. I absolutely LOVE this with dijon mustard so I tend to top all my bread with copious Dijon. Then top your 5 slices of bread with approximately ½ cup of cheese and place another piece of bread over this, butter side up.

Place your pan over medium heat for about a minute. If it’s too hot, the sandwich will burn before the cheese melts. Stuff as many sandwiches into the pan as will fit with room to flip them. I usually make this as my dinner for the week, one grilled cheese per evening, so I tend to only cook one at a time. 

Fry the sandwiches until they are golden brown, about 2 minutes. Press down gently on the top of each one for even browning. Flip the sandwiches over with your spatula and repeat on the other side. 

Once the cheese is melted and both sides are browned to your liking, put it on a plate with a bowl of your fresh tomato soup and enjoy. I recommend dunking for the full unparalleled experience but make sure your grilled cheese has cooled enough first. There’s nothing like a hot bowl of tomato soup after a long day. I hope you love it as much as I do.